Biber: The Rosary Sonatas (2SACD)

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Ariadne Daskalakis, Ensemble Vintage Köln

Biber’s ‘Rosary Sonatas’ for violin and basso continuo stand alone in the violin literature and in music history, offering a unique combination of programmatic material and the use of scordatura. The cycle consists of fifteen sonatas for violin and basso continuo, and a closing Passacaglia for solo violin, composed c.1687. Through the copper engravings inserted at the head of each sonata in the manuscript depicting key moments in the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary, the music has become associated with the Catholic Mysteries of the Rosary. Through the use of fifteen different tunings of the violin – one for each of the fifteen sonatas before the return to standard tuning in the closing Passacaglia – Biber achieves a variety of timbres that, when combined with his highly imaginative treatment of the violin, makes for absorbing listening. Appearing for the first time on BIS, the Greek-American violinist Ariadne Daskalakis has made a number of previous recordings, on baroque as well as modern violin. She is here supported by her fellow members in Ensemble Vintage Köln, a Cologne-based group of musicians specialized in baroque music. As a coupling to Biber's Rosary Sonatas – with a duration of almost 120 minutes – the ensemble has chosen to include the only extant violin sonata by George Muffat, Biber's colleague in the service of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg.